What Is Naturopathic Medicine?
The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) defines naturopathic medicine as:
- "A distinct system of primary health care-an art, science, philosophy, and practice of diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of illness. Naturopathic medicine is distinguished by the principles upon which its practice is based. These principles are continually re-examined in the light of scientific advances. The techniques of naturopathic medicine include modern and traditional, scientific, and empirical methods" (AANP, 1998).
What Are The Principles Of Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic medicine follows a number of key principles:
The healing power of nature: The body has an inherent ability to maintain and restore health. Naturopathic physicians facilitate this healing process by removing obstacles to cure and identifying treatments to enhance healing.
Identify and treat the cause: Naturopathic physicians treat the underlying causes of illness rather than just the symptoms of disease. Symptoms are an external manifestation of an internal imbalance due to any combination of physical, mental, or emotional causes. Symptom management may be important, but it is more important not to disregard the underlying cause of disease.
First do no harm: A naturopathic treatment plan uses therapies that are gentle, non-invasive, effective, and do not have adverse side effects. A conscious effort is made to use methods that do not suppress symptoms.
Doctor as teacher: The Latin root of doctor is docere, which means "to teach." The primary role of naturopathic physicians is educating, empowering, and motivating patients to assume more personal responsibility for their health by adopting a healthy attitude, lifestyle, and diet. Thomas Edison once said, "The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest patients in the maintenance of the human frame, in diet, and in the prevention of disease." It is more effective to teach than treat patients.
Treat the whole person: Naturopathic physicians identify specific weaknesses or dysfunctions in their patients and tailor treatment based upon the patient's individual presentation. It is the patient that is in need of treatment, not the disease state or symptom. Naturopathic physicians are interested in finding and treating characteristic symptoms that define the patient rather than common symptoms that define the disease. William Osler, MD, once said, "It is more important to know what sort of patient has a disease rather than what sort of disease a patient has."
Prevention: It is far easier and cheaper to prevent a disease than to treat a disease. Naturopathic physicians evaluate both subjective and objective information necessary to uncover potential susceptibilities to future disease states in their patients. They can discuss specific lifestyle strategies or nutritional supplementation as a means for disease prevention.
How Can Naturopathic Medicine Benefit Your Health And Wellbeing?
Naturopathic physicians are often successful at treating chronic conditions that don't respond to conventional medicine. This includes, but is not limited to: fatigue, pain, sleep disturbance, and digestive disorders. They are able to respond to the individual needs of patients and develop a treatment plan that includes nutritional supplements, botanical medicine, and diet therapy.
Naturopathic physicians understand the art of healing, which is more than dispensing an herbal remedy or nutritional supplement. To understand the context of a patient's illness, the physician must take the time to listen to the patient's story. Effective naturopathic treatment requires patience and good communication. Most patients know what is wrong and what needs to be done, but they don't know how to translate this into an action plan. The naturopathic physician can translate the patient's story and assign priorities among the several options that may emerge. They also take time to answer the patient's questions.